Data Center Modeling

Modeling data centers and other useful resources

Patrick Chopson avatar
Written by Patrick Chopson
Updated over a week ago

Data Centers are increasingly important in the digital age. Online tools used by billions daily (including cove.tool) run out of Data Centers that only a few people will ever see. These unique buildings are characterized by their large halls filled with servers and high energy use.

Data Centers use a unique benchmark metric, the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which compares the total energy used to the IT energy used.

PUE = Total Energy / IT Energy

An ideal PUE is 1.0, which means that all energy use is going to the IT equipment (servers) in the building. In 2019 the average PUE for data centers was 1.67 according to this Uptime Institute Study. Energy Star also provides a means to score a data centers performance, more on how that works here.

Modeling a Data Center

The key input into a data center is the appliance use. This will reflect the servers which are the primary energy use and also the primary source for heat which must be removed from the building. This value will range depending on the intensity of servers in the data center, most likely within the 50 to 100 w/sf range.

Another aspect of a data center is the 24/7/365 operation. This drives energy use up even higher as there are no hours of 'unoccupied' or reduce operation. To reflect the constant operation, update the occupancy schedule in cove.tool to this:

The building system also plays an important roll in the total energy use. Data Centers are cooling dominated, so much so that they may not even require a heating plant. Selecting the system and Cooling COP that closely matches proposed design. It's very helpful at this point to invite (use the Manage Teams feature) the mechanical engineer to the project for them to review.

The results will look high. Very high in fact, but that is likely accurate. One reason data centers unitize the PUE metric is EUI is so large as to be unhelpful in comparisons. Here's the breakdown of an example 30,000 sf data center with 60 w/sf of servers, located in Rochester, NY.

Note the equipment EUI along is over 1,800 kbtu/sf/year! With a total EUI of 2591 the approximate PUE of this example is 1.43.

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